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REVIEW: Turn your tablet into a TV remote control

By Ashbourne News Telegraph  |  Posted: March 12, 2014

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ONE FOR ALL TABLET REMOTE URC 8800, £59, http://www.oneforall.co.uk/urc8800-tablet-remote.html

AS the relentless global domination of the smartphone continues to take hold, its snowball effect on the world of technology seems to be swallowing up everything in its path.

Take satellite navigation for instance, it's the latest part of our technological lives to make a move from the car glovebox and into the menu of the smartphone.

Not content with transforming the camera industry, dominating the MP3 player market and helping to render the desktop computer almost entirely useless, more and more elements of our daily life are being controlled by smartphones.

My tip for the next piece of household technology to make its way in to the smartphone's app folder is the humble TV remote. There's a few phones already on the market that have Infra-red capability so far and the processing power bundled in to a modern smartphone makes for an exciting future for channel hoppers.

But smartphones can only do so much. They're limited by the size of their screen and, often, have a short battery lifespan that we tend to wipe out within a day of normal use.

What if this TV-controlling technology was bundled into a tablet computer? It's the smartphone's bigger brother and often packs even bigger processing power and a much bigger display. Not to mention a better battery that isn't used up with mundande, day-to-day tasks.

The trouble is, very few tablets at this state in their evolution have an infra-red output which gives them a stumbling block when making the leap into our hands when we need to turn up Eastenders or fast forward the adverts on Coronation Street.

But a firm that is often recognised as the market leader in TV remote innovation, One For All, has addressed this shortcoming by harnessing the power of home WiFi to send the commands to your TV for you.

What they've come up with is the tablet remote and, to make this as simple to understand as possible, you use a little black box to act as a go-between with your TV and your tablet and your home internet connection does all the complicated stuff.

For all you, in your comfy sofa, are concerned it's controlling your TV in the way a conventional remote control would do. Its little black box links in wirelessly to your home router and beams the infra red signals through a supplied adaptor, which you point at the infra-red sensor.

But, true to form with One For All, it'll do so much more than just change channels and raise and lower the volume.

In the spirit of its very best remote controls it uses the power and size of your tablet computer - be that an iPad or an Android device and, through a free app called Nevo, gives you a set of clearly laid out controls that you would hope to find on even the most high-tech conventional TV remotes.

Just like the very best TV remotes it can control an array of different appliances - not just your TV. DVD players, surround sound systems, even games consoles are all controllable from the straight-forward interface.

It also gives you access to an on-screen Electronic Programme Guide, which almost acts like a second screen when you're surfing through the channels on digital television which gives a clear and actually quite attractive 'picture' of what's on and when, helping you choose what you want to watch even before you sit down and put your feet up.

There's also quick access buttons that can control a number of devices in one hit - enabling you to switch on your TV, set-top box and surround sound system by pressing just one button, for example.

The interface is great. Even on smaller tablet screens it's very well laid out. Switching between screens and modes is a doddle and the controls all respond beautifully. I particularly like the 3D-effect of the volume slider on the main screen.

It's also personalisable so, if you're feeling adventurous or want to customise your remote control screen you can change the name of buttons and move things around. Try doing that with your normal household zapper.

What's also great about it is that, because the infra-red communication is provided by the box and not the device in your hand you can actually wander round your house controlling things.

I found this particularly useful while listening to music channels running on the television as it meant I could wander round the house with the tablet and still alter the volume from wherever I was - even in the garden.

Setting it up was a doddle too. One For All has a good reputation for making devices simple to link up and it was no different with the Tablet Remote.

The little black box connects through a WPS button which basically does all the connecting for you and, even if this doesn't work automatically, there's an online 'wizard' which takes you through all the complicated internet settings to get you started.

Then, when it's over to the tablet screen to link up your devices there's a very easy series of steps to follow and all my appliances connected and worked more or less straight away - even my archaic but trusty old Marantz Hi Fi.

What I love about the tablet remote is that it's as clever or as simple as you want to make it. I'm very much a gadget lover so I've thoroughly explored its capabilities but, even the most apprehensive technophobes should take to it straight away.

I tended to find that simple jobs like making quick adjustments to the volume or diving for the pause button when the phone rings were quicker and easier on my conventional remote - rather then powering up the tablet. But it's great for switching everything on in one go and then perusing the programmes on offer or for prodding through my library of recorded programmes.

Refreshingly, One For All has set the Tablet Remote's cost at £59, which gets you the app, the black box and its necessary cables and access to the firm's superb customer support facilities.

This means it's cheaper than some of the most advanced conventional remote controls on offer and, while it's always going to be a luxury item rather than a necessity, it's a fairly cheap way of unlocking the potential of you tablet - which is likely to have cost considerably more.

The only problem I can see that stands in the Tablet Remote's way is the advancement of the tablet technology itself. Already there are devices on the market that pack in an infra-red 'blaster' and the number of TV-controlling apps that use this is growing all the time.

But they are few and far between and, crucially, one of the main players in the tablet market the iPad, doesn't yet have any form of infra-red output so its future is secured at least in the short-term.

In the coming months, if more tablets are launched with infra-red, the Tablet Remote's USP may dwindle but, for now, even if it does just become a stop-gap, it's certainly the best on the market.

That said, £59 is a lot for what could be a stop gap so you'll need to consider carefully how ready you are to upgrade your tablet but if, like me, you've not long invested in one and it doesn't have infra-red built in then this is one of the best additions you can buy.

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